To get better at programming or math, it’s not enough to read about a topic. You have to solve problems. And solving problems is a lot more beneficial if you have access to solutions, especially ones with detailed explanations. But as useful as solutions are, they also present another problem: when is the best time to look at them?

Solving a problem yourself improves your understanding of a concept more than reading someone else’s solution. If that wasn’t true, then it would be possible to learn a technical subject just by reading about it. That would be easier, but it doesn’t work. So you need to struggle with problems.

However, you can’t avoid looking at the solution forever. Problems in textbooks or online judges are intended to be solved in hours or days. They aren’t unsolved research problems that take months or years to solve. (Or if they are, they’re clearly marked as such — e.g., some of the problems in Knuth’s books).

So part of your job as a problem-solver is to settle on the best time to look at each solution.